Many people have commented on it. Bruges just wasn’t Bruges without its tourist groups, each equipped with a guide and a little flag or - weather permitting - umbrella, the sound of a myriad of languages and above all the little boats offering tours of the canals.
Change is now in the air, but it will be gradual city cabinet member Philip Pierins explains: “Boats can only be filled to 60% capacity. A boat that normally accommodates 40 people will seat 25. All passengers must wear a mouth mask and disinfect hands before and after.”
The tour operators expect little custom to start off with. Few are the tourists arriving in Bruges.
Maurice Michielens, a veteran of the boat tours, is worried about the practical implications of safety measures and fears coronavirus is impacting on the charms of Bruges: “Usually the man or woman steering the boat explains what you can see. That’s pretty hard wearing a mask! You could install a Plexiglas screen, but that could get you into difficulty running under the bridges. The Wal Bridge is the lowest bridge of Bruges and could certainly cause a problem. Normally we give people a hand to get onto and off of our boat. Are we supposed to wear gloves?”